Shared Learning Experience

Critical Thinking: Consensus or Controversy – A Shared Learning Experience


This shared learning experience will explore personal and disciplinary perceptions of the skills and attributes required by a skilled critical thinker. Higher Education is becoming increasingly dependent on our ability to create and use new ideas and knowledge (Peter McCaffery: The HE managers handbook, second ed). New technologies have made it much easier and faster to access and share a vast array of information. However, information is not knowledge. Knowledge is how we access and use the information to increase our understanding through critical analysis, interpretation and the synthesis of new knowledge from a range of information sources. This knowledge creation requires a wide range of cognitive processes, personal attributes and skills. Many Universities are hailing students as ‘co-creators of knowledge’ and if this is the case, how are they learning to do this? Are we teaching them skills, or is it implicit in particular disciplinary approaches to learning and teaching that successful students will be able to think critically (without necessarily being able to recognise that that is what they are doing)? Phillips & Carol’s (2004) phenomenographic study of undergraduate critical thinking skills found that students understanding of critical thinking was limited.  Whereas Tapper (2004) suggests that the development of critical thinking to higher education students is discipline specific and dependent upon an academics’ attitude. The purpose of this shared experience is to bring colleagues together from different disciplines and organisations to discuss the concept of critical thinking and to attempt to reach a consensus view of what this entails.

The experience, will be facilitated using the World Café technique ( Participants will be asked to consider their own concept of critical thinking and the skills and attributes required by a good critical thinker. Initially participants will be arranged in groups of cognate disciplines and will share their personal concepts in an attempt to reach some sort of consensus on those skills and attributes considered to be essential. In subsequent rounds the disciplines will be mixed and participants will be asked to try and establish broader consensus across the disciplines. Finally, these outcomes will be discussed in relation to the international research undertaken by the presenters.  A consolidated overview of this exercise will be presented at the end of the Conference.

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